It’s the Holiday season, so it’s also a fitting time to talk all things Holiday Bowl too. It also means talking Big Ten in the bowl season and that’s what we’re here to do this week.
While the conference champion, Ohio State, was passed over for the College Football Playoff, there are still plenty of things to love about bowl season if you’re a fan of a team in or of the conference as a whole.
Few teams need the redemption of bowl season like the Iowa Hawkeyes. After flying high in a blowout win over Ohio State it has been all downhill for Kirk Ferentz’s bunch. A game Boston College program awaits in the Bronx, and while Iowa vs. BC may not stir the spirit, it could be a very intriguing matchup.
Here are 5 reasons to watch this year’s Pinstripe Bowl from Yankee Stadium.
Cold Weather Football…sorta
It was ballsy to put a bowl game outside in late December in the Northeast, but the Yankees decided it would be fun and here we are. Luckily, the two programs that are meeting in what could be a bitterly cold affair are used to this kind of weather.
With the ACC and Big Ten meeting in this game, sometimes the weather plays a major factor and in theory gives the Big Ten the advantage. That won’t be the case as both Boston College and Iowa players are well-versed in the cold weather thing.
Call me a Midwestern homer, but growing up in the shadow’s of Lambeau Field has made me love cold weather, snow and football all mixed together. However, it won’t be that bad on Dec. 27, as the forecast is calling for a high of 30 degrees following three straight days well above the freezing mark.
Sorry if you were hoping for a snow-covered Yankee Stadium, you won’t be getting any of that. Still, this is one of the few games where weather can play a factor. Will it on Wednesday?
Can Iowa Hold Up Big Ten’s Reputation in This Game?
Ever since the Big Ten got involved with the Pinstripe Bowl it has been a good relationship for the conference teams. The Big Ten has sent four teams to the Bronx and come away 3-1 in those four matchups. A crazy 44-41 loss by Indiana in overtime to Duke two years ago stands as the lone blemish for the conference.
Sometimes motivation for bowl games can take some strange twists and turns. Knowing that your representing your conference in a game they’ve dominated could be a small bit of motivation for the Hawkeyes here.
With the Big Ten taking a beating in last season’s bowl games and its champion held out of the College Football Playoff, this is a game that both the Iowa program and the Big Ten in general really need. No pressure, but come on Hawkeyes!
Oh, and then there’s this interesting nugget of information — Frentz-led Iowa teams have only won two bowl games in five attempts with a .500 or worse Big Ten conference record. That goes with an awful overall bowl record of 6-8 for the 62-year old head coach.
Nate Stanley’s Potential Magic
There are few quarterbacks in the Big Ten with the potential to be greater than Iowa’s Nate Stanley. He had a solid season as a first-time starter, completing 56 percent of his passes for 2,338 yards and 25 touchdowns to just 6 interceptions. But, the devil has been in the details for Stanley.
He’s been great in wins over Iowa State, Ohio State and Nebraska, but also failed to top 200 yards passing in eight of 12 games this season. There was even a 41-yard effort in a loss to Wisconsin the week after his best performance of the year against Ohio State.
In that game against the Buckeyes, Stanley threw for 226 yards and five touchdowns alone. In fact, in the wins over ISU, OSU and Nebraska, Stanley combined for 751 yards and 12 touchdowns to no interceptions. Those are hugely impressive numbers against arguably the Big 12’s best defense, one of the best Big Ten defenses and a rival to end the season.
But, that also means Stanley threw at least one interception in six of the other nine games compared to just 13 touchdowns.
The potential to light up a defense is there for Stanley, and Boston College continues to have one of the better ones in the country. Can the magic of the Iowa State and Ohio State games come alive one more time this season?
Iowa LB Josey Jewell vs. Boston College RB AJ Dillon
No running back vs. linebacker combination in the bowl season is going to be as juicy and fun to watch as this one will be. It’s Big Ten Linebacker of the Year vs. ACC Rookie of the Year, as these two teams square off. Simply put, this is a rare matchup in bowl games and one that is going completely overlooked for the most part.
I mean, Dillon trails only Wisconsin’s Jonathan Taylor in freshman rushing totals with 1,432 yards and 13 touchdowns. Jewell has been a monster of his own, racking up 123 tackles to lead the Big Ten. He also had 13.5 tackles for loss, 4.5 sacks and 11 pass breakups all from the middle linebacker position in a 4-3 defense.
Let’s just say Jewell isn’t a one-trick pony and neither is Dillon, which makes this matchup so fascinating to watch.
It will be most interesting because Dillon was on fire in the second half of the season, racking up 1,099 rushing yards — the most of any player in the country over the final six games of the season. If Jewell doesn’t win this battle and help bottle up Dillon, it may be a long day at Yankee Stadium.
BC’s Offense Has Been Red Hot
You could be excused for considering Boston College boring, as they are built on defense first. But, as the 2017 progressed, few offenses were more productive on the scoreboard than the Eagles were late in campaign. BC ended the year averaging just 26.2 points per game, good for 10th in the ACC.
But, once again, the devils are in the details and those details tell us just how good the Eagles offense can be. Over the final six games of the regular season, BC averaged a very healthy 36 points per game and won by an average of 19 points as well. Impressive stuff for a team mired in offensive frustration most of the first-half of the season.
The big question is, what will a month off due to the Eagles offense. There’s something to be said for momentum and that layoff between games can kill it. On the other hand, it could also be the time needed to continue to build off the good things done late in the year.
Iowa’s defense wasn’t exactly stellar in 2017 either — ranking sixth in scoring defense (19.9), eighth in rushing (142.0), ninth in passing (213.3) and eighth in total defense (355.3).
Can Iowa fix problems it had down the stretch or will BC be able to continue its hot hand on offense? The answer to that scenario likely answers who wins on Wednesday.
Who: Iowa (7-5) vs. Boston College (7-5)
When: 5:15 p.m. ET, Dec. 27 (ESPN)
Where: Yankee Stadium, Bronx, N.Y.
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